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‘Aid cut will hurt democracy’

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A top Canadian newspaper, the Huffington Post, has expressed fear that Zimbabwe’s pro-democracy campaign could suffer a major setback following plans by the Canadian International Development Agency (Cida) to scale down its humanitarian assistance to developing countries including Zimbabwe.

The newspaper said Cida had cut its aid by $380 million and planned to lay off about 2 000 workers.

“There is concern that cutting aid to Zimbabwe will hurt the prospects for greater democracy if elections are held next year, after a new constitution has been devised,” the newspaper said.

“Canada has always maintained close and cordial relations with Zimbabwe, but this relationship hasn’t advanced democracy in that country.”

This comes soon after Finance minister Tendai Biti told Senate a fortnight ago that he prefers that humanitarian aid to be directly channelled to government coffers than through non-governmental organisations.

“We appreciate foreign aid but it is more effective if it is coming through government and an example is the Education Trust where the Minister of Education, Arts, Sport and Culture, David Coltart, went to donors and asked for money for text books. If aid is properly channelled towards developmental issues like roads, there is nothing wrong with it,” he said.

Biti said some countries like Uganda actually had a ministry of aid and in most cases they did not know what to do with it.

“Between 1980 and 1990 this country got $4 billion in overseas development and I can imagine what I would have done in the last three years just with $1 billion. It is a dream that I would like to have,” Biti said.

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